Monthly Archives: September 2011

P2 and Sustainability

By David Sarokin

The theme of this year’s Pollution Prevention Week is P2: The Cornerstone of Sustainability.

Is it? Can P2 really take us to a future we can honestly say is more sustainable?

Becoming sustainable is about much more than just environmental improvement. When I was working on Agenda 21 – the sustainable development action plan that grew out of the 1992 U.N. Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro – we had the habit of talking about sustainability as a three-legged stool: environmental, economic and social progress, simultaneously, without improvements in one area interfering with progress in the others. I find that old image still aptly sums up what sustainability is about.

P2’s contribution to environmental progress is pretty straightforward. Use fewer material and energy resources and substitute safer chemicals and processes, and there’s less pollution, less toxic exposure, less mess across the board.

But P2 is also about — and has always been about — greater efficiency too, which is a boon to economic sustainability. Another phrase I’ve used innumerable times over the years (well…decades!) is pollution prevention pays, a message still worth repeating. Less waste means more material goes into finished products instead of into the air, water and landfills, resulting in lower costs for production, waste management and environmental compliance. Energy efficiency not only reduces greenhouse gases, but saves oodles of money during manufacture as well during the useful life of our cars, computers and other energy-consuming products. Energy Star led to $18 billion in savings last year (and I suspect that’s a conservative estimate). Commercial estimates have pegged the market in green chemistry at close to $100 billion!

Lastly, P2 builds more sustainable communities in ways both obvious and subtle. This, too, was part of our Agenda 21 focus, as we worked to add tools for community engagement into the sustainability toolbox. There are very few P2 programs that operate with a you-have-to-do-this-or-else mentality. Most of the accomplishments of P2 are built from a cooperative framework with government bureaucrats (and I use that word proudly) working with industry managers, workers on the plant floor, community representatives and environmental organizations to identify concerns, set goals, find at-the-source P2 solutions and monitor progress. The results improve local environmental and economic circumstances, to be sure. But pollution prevention also builds community relations (PDF) that didn’t exist previously, in an air of trust that, over time, becomes self-evidently effective.

This is sustainability at its best. Pollution prevention is at its foundation. The cornerstone, if you will.

About the author: David Sarokin is a proud EPA bureaucrat with a l-o-o-o-n-g history of working in pollution prevention and sustainability, beginning with his 1986 book, Cutting Chemical Wastes.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.


Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month at EPA

 

By Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to reflect on the important role the environment plays in every community, and the important role every community should play in protecting our environment. The EPA has taken considerable steps to make sure all Americans have a voice in the conversation about the environmental and health issues facing them. Just this week we unveiled an environmental justice plan called EJ 2014, to outline our work in the years ahead. But our commitment to protecting the health of all Americans goes beyond the guidebook. The voices of Hispanic and other minority communities are part of every decision we make.

When we proposed the first-ever Mercury and Air Toxics Standards to cut harmful emissions from power plants, we were thinking about the nearly 2 million Hispanics across America who suffer from asthma. When we finalized the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule to cut pollution that can drift across state lines, we were thinking about the almost 30 million Latinos who live in places that don’t meet clean air standards. These two health protections are expected to save 50,000 lives and prevent more than 500,000 cases of asthma nationwide.

We were thinking about Hispanic communities who live along Los Angeles’ Compton Creek and New York’s Harlem River – near where I used to work as an EPA scientist – when we formed the Urban Waters Federal Partnership. And we thought about them again when we awarded $6.2 million to organizations across the country that train local residents and place them into good, green jobs cleaning up their communities.

We want to give Hispanics, and all Americans, the opportunity to transform these often over-polluted areas into healthier, stronger places to raise a family and grow a business – creating opportunities for more jobs in places where they can have the most impact.

When it comes to our future, we are also working on behalf of Hispanic communities. I think about the many young Latino students I met at St. Phillips College in San Antonio and the many others like them throughout the nation getting green jobs training. These students will be the engineers, the factory workers and the welders making our power plants cleaner with new pollution control technology. They’ll be the workers revitalizing our urban waters and communities. And they’ll be the ones making the solar panels and wind farms and biomass to power our nation into the future.

It is critical that Hispanic Americans have a voice in our conversation about the environmental and health issues that affect their communities. That is why this is the first in a series of posts celebrating Hispanic Heritage month. In the weeks ahead, we will hear the real stories of people at EPA and members of Hispanic communities who are lending their voices to the conversation on environmentalism. I am proud I’m proud to join them in celebrating another Hispanic Heritage month here at EPA, and in working to protect the health and environment for all Americans.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Being Prepared

By Tom Damm

It wasn’t prophetic, just prudent to do a Healthy Waters blog earlier this year on preparing for water emergencies.  Since then, the Mid-Atlantic region has been pounded by a hurricane and drenching storms that have wreaked havoc in flooded communities across the area.

It’s time to revisit and broaden that topic since September is National Preparedness Month.  We can’t be reminded too often of the need to be ready for natural disasters and other emergencies.

That was clear when our EPA offices in a Philadelphia high-rise started to vibrate in the recent earthquake, and we trudged down flights of steps to evacuate and get over to a staging area.

The Department of Homeland Security encourages all of us to:

As we move on after marking the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, there will be activities across our area to promote emergency preparedness at home, at work and in the community.

Take advantage of these opportunities and check out these websites sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and EPA for more information.  And share with us any practical steps you’ve taken to be prepared.

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.  Prior to joining EPA, he held state government public affairs positions in New Jersey and worked as a daily newspaper reporter.  When not in the office, Tom enjoys cycling and volunteer work.  Tom and his family live in Hamilton Township, N.J., near Trenton.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Upcoming Weekend Activities

Taking advantage of the dwindling days of summer at Central Park in New York City. (EPA Photo/Kasia Broussalian)

It’s the final weekend of summer! The temperature has dropped a bit, but the sun should be out on both Saturday and Sunday. Here are some activities to get you outside.

Annual Harvest Fair – Come out to the El Flamboyan Community Garden in The Bronx for food, music and activities for kids. Co-sponsored by El Flamboyan Community Garden, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation and The New York Botanical Garden. Saturday, September 17, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Brooklyn Book Festival – Come out to the largest free literary event in New York City and see some of your favorite authors, including Terry McMillan, Walter Mosley, Pete Hamill and Joyce Carol Oates. Sunday, September 18, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

EcoFest at the Intrepid – EcoFest is a free environmental festival produced by the West Side Cultural Center, where people can get information about green initiatives, find sustainable products and be entertained by people who care about the environment. Sunday, September 18, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m 

High Line at the Kitchen Block Party – Kick off the fall season with a free, family-oriented street fair featuring dozens of artist-led activities, alongside live music and dance performances. Saturday, September 17, 11 a.m. 

International Coastal Cleanup – Looking to help beautify one of New York’s outdoor treasures? Join the Riverside Park Fund to help clean the shores of the Hudson River. Saturday, September 17, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Prospect Park Walk-a-Thon 2011 – Help raise money for the Prospect Park Alliance and get a great workout in the process! Many of the park’s trees were damaged as a result of Hurricane Irene, so your walking is even more needed at this year’s event! Sunday, September 18, 9 a.m.

Youth Basketball Clinic – If you’re between the ages of 9 and 17, come out to the North Meadow Recreation Center in Central Park and polish your b-ball skills! Saturday, September 17, 12 p.m. – 2 p.m.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Bringing Up Kids in the Great Outdoors

By Bonnie Bellow

I’m a New Yorker and I raised two daughters right here on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “Wasn’t raising kids in the city difficult? Didn’t you feel bad about them not being able to play outdoors?” The answer is absolutely “no.” City kids grow up outdoors – on stoops and sidewalks, in playgrounds and some of the greatest parks in the world.

I survived the isolation of first-time parenthood by wheeling my infant daughter in her stroller, onto the elevator, down the street and into a playground in Riverside Park. There, on the park benches, I encountered a network of mothers and fathers and an army of babysitters and nannies who offered me company and more sound advice about babies than Dr. Spock. No car seat, no car, no play dates needed. Birthdays were also celebrated in the park. My husband and I would pack crayons and paper and other arts and crafts, a cooler of food and drinks, pick up a cake and balloons on the way and lay claim to a picnic bench and a grassy field. The parents sipped their wine and beer looking out on the Hudson, while the kids ran free in the biggest backyard anyone could imagine. My daughters learned to hang upside down from the high bars on a park jungle gym (remember the monkey bars) and to hit a baseball in the local school playground. They practiced riding a bike and roller blading right on Broadway. They went ice skating at the Harlem rink and played in a soccer league in Central Park – admittedly with very little grass and sometimes a lot of goose poop in the goal box. On weekends, their travel teams played on Randalls Island in the shadow of the Wards Island Wastewater Treatment Plant. I will always remember the expressions on the faces of their Westchester competitors as they got out of their parents’ cars and were hit with the telltale smell. “What’s that? Ooooo!” It was an early environmental lesson for everyone. More

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Science Wednesday: Post 9/11: EPA’s Homeland Security Research Program

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Jonathan Herrmann, P.E., BCEE

I have spent almost my entire career in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. During that time, I’ve been involved in many areas of research related to environmental protection and human health. I have also managed various parts of the Agency’s science enterprise from Superfund remediation to mercury risk management. Without a doubt, the most rewarding part of my career has been the last ten years dealing with scientific and technical issues for the Agency’s Homeland Security Research Program (HSRP).

When a number of us started the Program, we primarily learned by doing. Sometimes we had false starts. What really helped was the tremendous support from our EPA leaders. There was a clear mission and vision for our efforts and adequate resources were available to do the job. Most importantly, all of us were dedicated to the idea that we could make a difference in protecting the nation and the public with our work.

As Director of EPA’s National Homeland Security Research Center, I am proud to announce we have produced a special edition of EPA’s Science Matters newsletter highlighting our accomplishments in homeland security research over the past eight years. The newsletter commemorates the 10th anniversary of 9/11 by reporting on what we’ve learned and accomplished since then.

It starts with a lead article by Debbie Dietrich, the Associate Administrator for Homeland Security providing an overview of how the HSRP fits with EPA’s homeland security roles and responsibilities, health and environmental protection programs and regional response capabilities. In my Executive Message, I offer an overview of the history of our National Homeland Security Research Center’s accomplishments and future direction. Members of our Senior Leadership Team add their views on the importance of our collaborations with other EPA programs, federal departments and agencies.

Additional articles highlight:

  • our advances in developing Provisional Advisory Levels that guide response and recovery actions following a chemical accident or incident,
  • the sampling and analytical methods we’ve developed for laboratories involved in responding to homeland security incidents,
  • several of our innovative water security detection systems and models
  • advances in decontamination science and engineering
  • and, our I-WASTE decision tools that help clean-up teams safely dispose of contaminated debris.

To read the newsletter and learn more about how EPA is science is advancing homeland security, visit.

About the Author: Jonathan Herrmann, P.E., BCEE, is the director of EPA’s National Homeland Security Research Center.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Is This Any Way to Run A High School?

 

By Teresa Ippolito

 There are high school orientations and then there is the orientation that the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School, a New York City Public High School, provides for its incoming freshman.

 If you have been to Governors Island, and I strongly suggest you put it on your “to do” list, you probably have seen the school building and you may even have encountered some Harbor School students. Imagine taking a ferry to school every morning; that is just what these students do.  But there is more to Harbor School than an unusual commute.  

Students who attend New York Harbor School this school will use the harbor as a laboratory for their college prep studies.

 It is very clear, even during orientation, that New York Harbor inspires a unique schedule and environment.  A typical introduction to the school day includes a Morning Muster, Leadership 101, and Boat Building.  Their freshman year course selections can include Harbor Science, English, Civics and Economics, Geometry, Intro to New York Harbor and Swimming.  Did you catch that reference to “boatbuilding”?  Each of the one week orientation sessions managed to construct a small but harbor worthy wooden vessel!

 On a recent visit, I watched these New York City kids kayaking in the semi-enclosed boat basin.  Last year, a group of Harbor School students held an EPA audience spellbound as they described their work to restore the oyster population in New York Harbor.

If you think this sounds like a school that is truly committed to enabling young people to develop leadership and environmental stewardship skills, you have the right idea.

More information about the Harbor School can be found here.

Want to visit Governors Island? Go to http://govisland.com/html/home/home.shtml

Hurry!  September 25th is the last day until May, 2012.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Well Done, Boston Latin School Youth Can!

By Quynh-Nhu Le

For about the past five years, Boston Latin School Youth CAN has engaged students both in school and in the community in environmental stewardship projects.

Five years! That’s a long time to have been doing this. I joined BLS Youth CAN about three years ago. I have seen it grow tremendously over that time. Our Education for Sustainability campaign, which aims to get sustainability integrated into BLS’s curriculum, has taken off. We just held our second Summer Institute for teachers interested in developing curriculum for the campaign.

We’ve also worked to improve the school facilities, started a school garden and introduced Zero-Sort Recycling to the school. Honestly, Youth CAN has worked so hard these past years in order to improve youth awareness and school facilities that sometimes it’s very tiring, especially when you hit roadblocks on your project. Of course, the project itself is fun and rewarding. BUT, there are times when you really wonder how much what you’re doing really impacts others.

That’s where the PEYA award came in. I think my group collectively screamed when we found out we had won the PEYA Region 1 Award. The EPA is, of course, known for its mission to protect human health and the environment (since of course the two are inextricably tied together). It awards the President’s Environmental Youth Award to regional youths for outstanding environmental projects. This year, one of the ten awards was given to BLS Youth CAN.

We got to go to the award ceremony at Faneuil Hall in Boston, and even did a short skit about the importance of recycling that we developed when rolling out our Zero-Sort Recycling program at BLS.

The fact that the hard work we had done was recognized is immensely satisfying. I mean, some of our student leaders spend nearly every afternoon planning the next steps BLS Youth CAN will take. The PEYA award makes us feel all the work is worth it, because it is impacting places beyond the boundaries of our school.

I hope other youth groups and individuals out there are inspired to pursue their own projects by the work we have done, by the importance the EPA has placed on recognizing youth engagement in environmental stewardship, and by the dedication of all the PEYA winners.

Trust me. The personal satisfaction at making a positive impact on the community is worth it.

About the author: Quynh-Nhu Le is a Boston Latin School student & member of BLS Youth Can.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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EPA Interns Help Launch OnCampus ecoAmbassador Program For The College Crowd

By Kristin Cassidy and Kelley Doyle

Being involved on campus is an essential element of your college experience. As interns working on the OnCampus ecoAmbassador program, we were lucky enough to continue our extracurricular involvement throughout the summer while preparing the program for its September 1st launch date.

Even though we were interns, we were an integral part of the small team working on the OnCampus program. Rather than fetch coffee and make copies –which we are thankful to say we never did– we created and edited resource guides for more than 30 activities in addition to marketing the program to colleges across the country. By the end of our internship, we had contacted over 85 colleges!

The OnCampus ecoAmbassador program provides EPA resources to college students to complete activities that “green” their campuses and promote environmental awareness. Students register their activities online on the EPA OnCampus website and interact with other ecoAmbassadors through a Facebook page. Past ecoAmbassadors have initiated composting programs, coordinated Earth Day events, and certified campus buildings as Energy Star compliant.

One of our favorite days this summer was when we filmed an OnCampus PSA with celebrity Rachael Leigh Cook. We were nervous while waiting for her outside in the 100 degree heat, but as soon as we saw her smiling, as she strutted toward us in 6-inch heels while avoiding treacherous D.C. potholes and cobblestones, we knew we had nothing to worry about. She filmed the PSA like a pro, accepted our gift bag of EPA items graciously, and bid us good-bye with big hugs and thank-you’s.

But what’s next for us? We’re grateful for our 10 weeks at the EPA and are eager to return to school for our senior year. We couldn’t just abandon all ties to the EPA… so we’re registering for ecoAmbassador activities this fall! At American University, Kristin will be creating a lesson plan and teaching local elementary students about an environmental issue of her choice. At UC Berkeley, Kelley will build upon her existing extracurricular commitments in the Greek community by organizing a recycling program for fraternities and sororities on game days during the football season.

About the author: Kristin Cassidy and Kelley Doyle are summer interns in the Office of Environmental Education. Kristin is a rising senior at American University majoring in international relations and Kelley is a rising senior at UC Berkeley majoring in environmental sciences.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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School is Now in Session

 

(EPA Photo/Kasia Broussalian)

By Elias Rodriguez

Are those schools bells I hear ringing? What can compare to the wellspring of bliss that bubbles up in parents when we bid adios to our little bundles of joy on the first day of school? “Oh, yes my darlings, parting is sweet sorrow but you must practice your ABCs, 123s and hopefully learn something about becoming good stewards of our (one and only livable) planet.”

My kids are old enough to understand that the decisions they make each day have an impact on their environment.  Whether it is choosing a take a waste free lunch to a school or remembering to recycle any waste they do produce, parents and caregivers have a host of ways to instill values that demonstrate a healthy respect for Earth’s limited resources.

Of course, much has changed since my days of attending school in Manhattan. New York City’s 1,600 public schools make it the largest school system  in the nation. The day our teacher took us on a field trip to cleanup a neighborhood park was the kind of hands-on lesson I still cherish decades after the class was over and the teacher’s name forgotten. My family is living in the suburbs now and I marvel at the fact that seven trees are now my personal responsibility.  It is sobering to know that they were here before me and will remain long after I am gone.  As a father of two young scholars, I’ve noticed that school buses no longer spew black smoke thanks in part of EPA’s funding to cleanup school bus diesel engines. More

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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